London’s National Theatre will reopen next month after it remodels its largest stage so that it can welcome a socially distanced audience.

The venue is reconfiguring its 1,500-capacity Olivier theatre to become a 500-seat theatre-in-the-round for when performances return on October 21.

The National Theatre’s director Rufus Norris said the new set up “will allow us to present live work to as many people as possible while social distancing remains in place”.

The National Theatre, which has been closed since March 16, will open its doors with Death of England: Delroy, a new play written by Clint Dyer and Roy Williams, the first production in a season of productions to be staged at the transformed theatre. Tickets will go on sale to everyone from October 2, with over 200 tickets available at £20 for every performance.

In addition to adapting the stage layout, the venue will introduce staggered arrival times, paperless tickets, pre-ordered drinks, enhanced cleaning, mandatory face coverings and sanitisation stations.

The theatre will also host its second pantomime in the venue’s history in December with Dick Whittington, which was written by comedian Cariad Lloyd and Jude Christian. The only other pantomime that has ever been performed on a stage at the venue was a production of Cinderella, which was put on in the Lyttelton Theatre in 1983.

The venue said that the return of pantomime for one year only is a way to “celebrate and honour panto’s place at the heart of British theatre”.

Norris said: “We’ll do all we can to keep the flame alive: brilliant theatre artists will serve up a slice of joy to families on the South Bank, and we’ll be asking everyone to support their local theatres by booking ahead for their 2021 pantomimes.”

Earlier this week, The Clapham Grand in London announced it is set to open its refurbished top tier balcony for the first time in 15 years to welcome a socially distanced capacity of 400 punters for its first post-lockdown shows.

By refurbishing and opening the upper circle the venue can sell an additional 100 tickets with distancing, although it is still trading over 50 per cent below the former capacity, but it claims in a statement that these extra tickets give the venue “more chance to make the new financial model work and survive this period.”

Image: National Theatre